TIME Syria

The U.S. Is Risking Stalemate by Expanding the Anti-ISIS Air War Into Syria

U.S. Navy Targets Gaddafi Military Sites On the Libyan Coast
The U.S. attacked targets inside Syria early Tuesday with Tomahawk missiles like this one, shown being launched against Libya from a U.S. Navy warship in the Mediterranean Sea in 2011. U.S. Navy / Getty Images

Bombing the militants will halt their expansion, but it will not wipe them out

Tuesday’s bombing of Islamic militant targets inside Syria by U.S. and allied aircraft marks a sharp escalation of the conflict, with no guarantee of success.

The strikes, in and around Raqqa, the Syrian city that is the home base of the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), began with 47 Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from U.S. Navy ships. Air Force and Navy warplanes, along with unmanned drones, followed in their wake, defense officials said. The Air Force’s F-22 fighter-bomber also made its combat debut during the operation. Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates played unspecified roles in the attacks. All aircraft returned safely.

“The strikes destroyed or damaged multiple [ISIS] targets in the vicinity of Raqqa, Dayr az Zawr, Al Hasakah, and Abu Kamal,” U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla., said of four towns that are ISIS strongholds. Targets “included [ISIS] fighters, training compounds, headquarters and command and control facilities, storage facilities, a finance center, supply trucks and armed vehicles,” Central Command said in its early-morning statement. More than 150 precision-guided munitions were used against 14 different targets.

ISIS wasn’t the only group targeted inside Syria. “Separately, the United States has also taken action to disrupt the imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western interests conducted by a network of seasoned al Qaeda veterans—sometimes referred to as the Khorasan Group—who have established a safe haven in Syria to develop external attacks, construct and test improvised explosive devices and recruit Westerners to conduct operations,” the Central Command statement added. “These strikes were undertaken only by U.S. assets.” The Pentagon conducted eight strikes against Khorasan targets west of the Syrian city of Aleppo, including “training camps, an explosives and munitions production facility, a communication building and command and control facilities.”

“We wanted to make sure that [ISIS] knew they have no safe haven,” Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters as he flew back to Washington from Europe. “We certainly achieved that.”

Expanding the set of ISIS targets—the U.S. had attacked some 200 ISIS locations, all in Iraq, before Tuesday—is a military gamble with unpredictable consequences.

President Obama warned he would launch expanded strikes in a speech on Sept. 10.

“I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are,” Obama said. “That means I will not hesitate to take action against [ISIS] in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”

The Pentagon’s war plan “includes targeted actions against [ISIS] safe havens in Syria — including its command and control, logistics capabilities, and infrastructure,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told Congress last week. “Our actions will not be restrained by a border that exists in name only.”

U.S. intelligence assets — including satellites and drones — have therefore been scouring eastern Syria for ISIS targets in recent weeks.

The new attacks, against fixed ISIS targets, undoubtedly did significant damage. But they also will force ISIS fighters to hunker down, now that their sanctuary inside Syria has been breached. This means that the jihadists, who have shown little regard for civilians, will move in among them in the relatively few towns and villages in eastern Syria, betting that the U.S. and its allies will not attack them there and risk killing innocents.

That could lead to a stalemate. While air strikes are likely to keep ISIS from massing its forces, and traveling in easy-to-spot convoys, air power can do little to stop small groups of fighters from billeting with and intimidating the local population.

Senior U.S. military officers, including Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, have said in recent days that they may recommend to Obama that small numbers of U.S. ground forces be sent into the fight, to ensure the accuracy of U.S. air strikes.

But most of the fighting on the ground in Iraq against ISIS will be done by Iraqi forces, U.S. officials say. “Moderate” Syrian rebels will battle ISIS on the ground inside Syria. However, the U.S. plans to train only 5,000 such rebels in the coming year — a small force compared with ISIS’s estimated 30,000 fighters. That mismatch is another reason why the conflict could bog down.

U.S. military officials have made it clear that if they are to have any chance of success against ISIS, they have to be able to strike at it inside Syria. In Afghanistan, the ability of the Taliban to move into Pakistan, where they were safe from U.S. attacks, is a major reason why they remain a potent threat to Afghanistan’s future stability, even after 13 years of war.

The Syrian government of Bashar Assad has a robust air-defense system — focused, admittedly, in the western part of the country, near the capital of Damascus, and not in the relatively desolate east. Nonetheless, its existence means that U.S. air strikes are not without risk.

ISIS and other anti-Assad groups have been waging a civil war, in which 200,000 people have died, against the Syrian government for three years. It’s that war — and the sectarian strife across the border in Iraq — that ISIS has been able to exploit. Over the past year, it has seized a vast portion of eastern Syria and western Iraq and declared it to be an Islamic state.

TIME Military

Army’s Top Officer Wonders if the Post-9/11 Wars Have Been Worth It

Senate Armed Services Committee Holds Hearing With Top Military Officials On Compensation
General Ray Odierno testifies before Congress in May. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

“I’m not willing to comment on that yet,” Gen. Ray Odierno says

At 60, Ray Odierno may be an old soldier. But he has yet to fade away.

He’s now serving as the Army’s top officer, following three senior assignments in Iraq between 2003 and 2010. Few, if any, commanders wearing a U.S. military uniform have spent as much time as the Army’s 38th chief of staff trying to get the nation’s post-9/11 wars right.

Ft. Hood Soldiers Prepare for Deployment
Odierno, 2003 Getty Images

So there he was over breakfast with reporters Friday, trying to explain the U.S. military’s effort, from the sky, to rid Iraq, and then Syria, of the jihadists belonging to the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

“Air strikes have slowed the advances of [ISIS],” he said. “But air strikes alone won’t defeat [ISIS]. You need a complementary ground capability that will go in and do that.” He, like other Pentagon leaders, wouldn’t rule out asking President Obama to dispatch small numbers of U.S. ground troops to the fight, even though Obama has said that will not happen. “I never rule anything out,” Odierno said.

Commander of the 4th Infantry Division o
Odierno, 2004 Getty Images

But it’s Iraqis and Syrians who will have to do most of the fighting on the ground, he added. U.S. air strikes will only drive ISIS fighters into urban areas, where innocent civilians will serve to protect them from American bombs and missiles, he warned. It will be a challenge to ensure the U.S. and its allies only train and outfit Syrian rebels dedicated to removing ISIS. “We must be sure they are who they are,” he said, “and won’t be part of some extremist group.”

US Army Lieutenant General Ray Odierno,
Odierno, 2007 Getty Images

Such woes have dogged U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan for more than a decade. His recitation reminded this reporter of seeing then-Major General Odierno in Kirkuk, Iraq, in December 2003, explaining how things were going in the 4th Infantry Division he commanded. Attacks on his troops were down, and they were hot on Saddam Hussein’s tail. A week later, they pulled the fugitive former Iraqi leader from his spider hole.

Gen. Odierno Holds Press Briefing On Security Situation In Iraq
Odierno, 2010 Getty Images

But such early progress proved elusive later on in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Odierno has felt that shortfall, personally. Eight months after Saddam’s capture, Odierno’s son, Tony, an Army captain and West Point graduate like his father, lost his left arm to an RPG round that killed the driver of his Humvee. Friday’s breakfast had been delayed a month because the original date conflicted with honors for Army Major General Harold Greene. The most senior U.S. officer to die in the wars following 9/11, Greene had been killed by a member of the Afghan army, a supposed ally.

Those were low points in what has become a 13-year grind, and that threatens—despite Obama’s best intentions—to continue for years to come. Has it been worth it?

To his credit, Odierno didn’t respond with a reflexive “Yes.” The hulking, nearly 6-foot-6, bald-headed general said he has been asked the question before. That only makes his answer more credible:

That’s a very difficult question…The bottom line on all of this is, as I think my way through this, is that first, as a soldier, what we do is we try to provide the capability to try to provide security for the nation. And we try to conduct the missions we’re given. As we’ve worked our way through this, one of the lessons I’ve learned is that military power is not the solution to everything—it’s got to be a combination of many other things—military, economic, political, diplomatic, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I would even argue in my area of operation in 2003—the violence was down, we had just captured the leader, things were looking pretty good—but there was an under-estimation of the societal devastation that had happened inside Iraq. The bottom line is that the Middle East is all inter-connected and it is going to cause problems and we have to stay involved in it. I don’t know what the end state is going to be yet.

What I do know is its terrorist groups are very threatening to both the United States and Europe. I brought some of our leaders up to New York to the 9/11 museum—I suggest everyone go, by the way, I suggest every American go to this 9/11 museum—and it was eerie listening to what was being said in 1991, ’92, ’93, ’94 by Osama bin Laden. It sounds very similar to what we’re hearing out of [ISIS] today. So we have to realize that this is a long-term threat that takes a long-term commitment. And if we don’t believe they want to attack the West and America, you’re kidding yourself…We have to make a decision on whether we are going to be pro-active in doing this, or are we going to wait until it’s too late.

So what’s helped me through all this is, I believe, we are attempting to be pro-active and to protect this country and the freedoms that we have. And I don’t want to sound Pollyannish, but I truly believe that. I think we have to continue to do this, although things have not gone the way I thought they would go. Things are not as smooth as I thought they would be. There’s been personal sacrifice, but not just by my family, but thousands of families in this country. I think we have to remember that there is, I believe, a threat to this country.

So has it been worth it?

I think it’s yet to be determined. I think this is going to be a long endeavor, and I think we have to let history decide that. I’m not willing to comment on that yet.

What’s surprising isn’t how little Odierno sounds a typical Army general, but how much he sounds like a typical American.

TIME Syria

Thousands Are Fleeing From Syria to Turkey to Escape the Latest ISIS Onslaught

TURKEY-SYRIA-KURDS-REFUGEES
Syrian Kurds carry belongings as they cross the border between Syria and Turkey near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on Sept. 20, 2014. Bulent Kilic—AFP/Getty Images

Turkey is already home to nearly 1.5 million Syrian refugees

At least 100,000 Syrian refugees flooded across the border into Turkey over the weekend as Sunni extremist fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) launched an offensive against Kurdish communities in northern Syria.

Approximately 150,000 people have been displaced since ISIS began to encircle the border town of Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, last week.

“Four or five days ago this area was quite safe,” Selin Unal, a spokesperson with the U.N.’s refugee agency, the UNHCR, told TIME on Monday. “And then after three days, 100,000 Syrians fled to Turkey.”

The militants have reportedly routed dozens of towns and executed at least 11 people in the villages outside of Kobani, according to activists.

“[ISIS] are continuing to advance,” Welat Avar, a doctor, told Reuters from Kobani. “Every place they pass through they kill, wound and kidnap people. Many people are missing and we believe they were kidnapped.”

International aid groups and Turkish officials warned that thousands of additional refugees are likely to try to cross the border in the coming days amid the militants’ offensive. Before the weekend’s onslaught, Turkey had already been home to close to 1.5 million refugees from the conflict-torn nation.

“Turkish government authorities and UNHCR are preparing for the possibility of hundreds of thousands more refugees arriving over the coming days, as the battle for the northern Syrian city of Kobani forces more people to flee,” read a statement released by the U.N. refugee agency over the weekend.

On Sunday, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group classified as a terrorist organization by both Ankara and Washington, called on fellow Kurds to take up arms to repel ISIS.

“Supporting this heroic resistance is not just a debt of honor of the Kurds but all Middle East people. Just giving support is not enough, the criterion must be taking part in the resistance,” the PKK said in a statement.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that hundreds of Kurdish fighters from inside Turkey crossed into Syria over the weekend to help beat back the ISIS offensive. Near the border, Turkish Kurds demonstrated in solidarity with the refugees, leading to clashes with authorities, who deployed tear gas and water cannon against the protesters.

While ISIS’s thrust in Iraq has been largely slowed by U.S. air strikes, American forces have yet to target the militant group’s myriad positions in neighboring Syria, thus allowing the group to continue to consume large swaths of territory across the country’s north and east.

During an interview on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power hinted that the White House and its allies are ready to strike in Syria, but refrained from announcing how the Obama Administration was preparing to do so.

“The President has said we’re not going to allow [ISIS] to have a safe haven in Syria,” said Power. “But no decisions have been made in terms of how we’re going to proceed in that.”

Earlier this month, Turkey refrained from joining the U.S.-led coalition aiming to take the fight to the jihadist organization.

The uptick in violence along Turkey’s frontier coincides with the release of 49 Turkish diplomats over the weekend. All 49 had been in ISIS’s custody for three months since jihadist militants routed Iraqi security forces in Mosul in July.

Ankara has yet to provide firm details regarding the so-called rescue operation that succeeded in freeing the diplomats.

TIME Syria

Wife of British Hostage Pleads ISIS for Release

An undated family handout photo of British aid worker Alan Henning taken at a refugee camp on the Turkish-Syria border
An undated family handout photo of British aid worker Alan Henning taken at a refugee camp on the Turkish-Syria border. Reuters

Alan Henning's wife implored militants to release her husband from captivity

LONDON — The wife of a British aid worker held hostage by the Islamic State group has issued a statement pleading for the militants to release him and respond to her messages “before it is too late.”

The Islamic State group, which has released online videos showing the beheading of two American journalists and another British aid worker, has threatened to kill former taxi driver Alan Henning next.

Henning, 47, was kidnapped in December in Syria, shortly after crossing into the country from Turkey in an aid convoy.

His wife, Barbara, implored the militants to “see it in their hearts” to release him in a statement released by Britain’s Foreign Office late Saturday.

“Alan is a peaceful, selfless man who left his family and his job as a taxi driver in the U.K. to drive in a convoy all the way to Syria with his Muslim colleagues and friends to help those most in need,” she wrote.

“His purpose for being there was no more and no less. This was an act of sheer compassion,” she said.

The aid worker was driving an ambulance loaded with food and water at the time of the kidnapping, Barbara Henning said. She added that the militants have not responded to her repeated attempts to make contact.

Her appeal came after dozens of Muslim leaders in Britain urged the Islamic State group to release Henning.

More than 100 imams and Muslim organizations signed a statement expressing their “horror and revulsion” at the murder of three other hostages, including Briton David Haines.

They said the extremists were “not acting as Muslims” but as “monsters.”

TIME Iraq

Former Defense Secretary: U.S. Should Have Kept Troops in Iraq

The Last U.S. Troop Brigade In Iraq Departs Country After Over Eight Years Of War
Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division board a C-17 transport plane to depart from Iraq at Camp Adder, now known as Imam Ali Base, on Saturday Dec. 17, 2011, near Nasiriyah, Iraq. Mario Tama—AP

Panetta's expressed differences with his former boss, President Obama, in an interview with "60 Minutes"

Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says the United States should not have completely pulled troops out of Iraq in 2011.

In an interview on CBS’s 60 Minutes, Panetta, who was defense secretary under President Barack Obama from 2011 to 2013 after being director of the CIA from 2009 to 2011, said he disagreed with the U.S. strategy of withdrawing soldiers from Iraq.

“I really thought that it was important for us to maintain a presence in Iraq,” Panetta said.

Panetta also said the U.S. should have provided weapons to Syrians who opposed Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, a view opposed to that of President Obama and many high-level security officials.

“I think the President’s concern, and I understand it, was that he had a fear that if we started providing weapons, we wouldn’t know where those weapons would wind up,” Panetta said. “My view was, you have to begin somewhere.”

The episode of 60 Minutes featuring Panetta will be broadcast Sunday, 7:30 p.m. ET.

TIME Iraq

Dozens of Turkish ISIS Hostages Freed in ‘Rescue Effort’

A late-night operation brought 46 Turkish citizens home

Dozens of Turkish hostages who had been held by Islamist militants for three months were freed Saturday in northern Iraq.

Forty-nine people were seized in June when the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) raided the Turkish consulate in Mosul, abducting Consul General Ozturk Yilmaz, his family members and other citizens. All 49 have now been freed and returned to their home country, CNN reports. Forty-six of the captives were Turkish citizens.

Exactly how the hostages were returned to Turkey is unclear, but Turkish authorities described their release as the result of a late-night rescue operation. “At around 11:30 at night, this rescue effort reached its final stage,” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a crowd in Ankara.

“I thank … every single member of the national intelligence agency from the director to the field operatives,” said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “I congratulate them for their big success from the bottom of my heart.”

Mosul quickly capitulated when ISIS attacked the city on June 10.

[CNN]

TIME Security

Experts Doubt ISIS Could Launch Major Cyberattack Against the U.S.

A member loyal to the ISIL waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa
A member loyal to ISIS waves an ISIS flag in Raqqa, Syria in June 29, 2014. Reuters

Experts say the Islamist militants' social media savvy doesn’t translate into a real cybersecurity threat against the U.S.

The Islamist militants who have taken over swathes of Syria and Iraq have proven remarkably adept at using 21st century technology.

In the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria’s (ISIS) drive to establish what it calls a new caliphate, the group has gathered between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters, partly thanks to its recruitment campaign over social media networks like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Widely disseminated video footage of executed American and British citizens have become ISIS’s tools for terror; the Internet is ISIS’s vehicle.

Today, ISIS’s adroit use of modern technology is raising a new specter: cyberterrorism. Several prominent national security experts and cyber analysts warned this week that ISIS could someday threaten the United States, elevating fears about the West’s vulnerability to a cyberattack.

“ISIS has already had success in utilizing technology, using the web for recruiting, distribution of terrorist information and scare tactics,” David De Walt, the chief executive of tech security company FireEye told the Financial Times this week. Now, De Walt said, “[w]e’ve begun to see signs that rebel terrorist organizations are attempting to gain access in cyber weaponry.”

And on Tuesday, National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers warned that the U.S. needs to bolster its defenses against digital attacks from terrorist groups like ISIS.

“It’s something I’m watching,” Rogers said of ISIS’s aggressive use of Internet technology at a cybersecurity conference in Washington, D.C. “We need to assume that there will be a cyber dimension increasingly in almost any scenario that we’re dealing with. Counterterrorism is no different.”

But do we really need to fear a cyber attack from ISIS? As it turns out, probably not: ISIS’s social media savvy doesn’t necessarily translate into a real cybersecurity threat against the United States, and much of the talk about the group’s growing cyber-prowess overstates the point, experts told TIME.

“I don’t think anyone has any proof that there’s an imminent attack or that ISIS has acquired the manpower or the resources to launch an attack on the infrastructure of the United States,” said Craig Guiliano, senior threat specialist at security firm TSC Advantage and a former counterterrorism officer with the Department of Defense. “It could be a potential threat in the future, but we’re not there yet.”

ISIS, a group with little technological infrastructure, doesn’t have many resources to wage a cyberwar against the United States. Compared to larger, state-sponsored hacking operations, ISIS is miles behind. Chinese hackers, for instance, who have been accused of attacking U.S. businesses and government contractors, are reported to have wide-ranging support from Chinese authorities, with many of the hackers hailing directly from the Chinese army.

A few ISIS-related figures have been connected with cyberattacks or cybercrime. Abu Hussain Al Britani, a British hacker who has since moved to Syria and begun recruiting for ISIS, was jailed in 2012 for hacking into former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Gmail account. One of the more prominent tech-savvy ISIS supporters, Al Britani maintains a Twitter account that calls for new ISIS recruits.

And a group called “Lizard Squad” that has claimed responsibility for high-profile cyberattacks that have brought down the websites of the Vatican, Sony and others has tenuously been linked to ISIS on the basis of tweets like this one:

But ISIS doesn’t appear to have the manpower to launch sophisticated attacks against the United States. “You need some resources. You need access to certain kinds of technology. You need to have hardcore programmers,” Jim Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said. “ISIS doesn’t have those capabilities.”

Unlike China’s state-sponsored hackers, who have a strong interest in attacking U.S. businesses to hawk trade secrets and intellectual property, ISIS is more concerned with taking real-world territory and controlling it. ISIS’ first priority is establishing control over the disparate desert regions from the outskirts of Aleppo in Syria to Falluja in Iraq and creating an Islamic caliphate—not an expensive and often intangible cyberwar against American websites.

“ISIS wants to conquer the Middle East, not hack websites in Omaha,” said Lewis.

That’s not to say that ISIS is incapable of launching an attack in the future. ISIS is believed to be well-funded, likely capable of purchasing simple malware on the black market and using it against the West. But the kinds of attacks ISIS would be able to carry out would likely be more of an annoyance than a debilitating strike on the United States’ infrastructure, the kind of attack that national security experts really worry about.

During the most recent spate of violence between Gaza and Israel, for example, hackers on both sides launched distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, which involves using multiple servers to overload a website and briefly disable it. That kind of attack is a far cry from shutting down power plants in the U.S. or attacking nuclear reactors. Still, the threat of a cyber strike, particularly against financial institutions as a means of funding ISIS’s expansion, may grow over time.

“ISIS is continuously looking for new ways to carry out high impact high visibility events to bring attention to their cause,” said John Cohen, recently the counterterrorism coordinator at the Department of Homeland Security and currently a professor at Rutgers University. “One has to speculate they are looking at the results of major cyber breaches such as Target or Home Depot and against critical infrastructure, and thinking about them as a potential avenue.”

TIME White House

Joe Biden’s Gaffe-Ridden Week

Vice President Joe Biden Gaffes
Vice-President Joe Biden looks on during a bilateral meeting between President Obama and President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Sept. 18, 2014. Olivier Douliery—Corbis

Joe Biden, known for his verbal gaffes, has had a tough week

Speaking at the Democratic Women’s Leadership Forum, Vice President Joe Biden on Friday praised former Sen. Bob Packwood, who resigned in 1995 after 19 women accused him of sexual harassment and assault.

Err, awkward!

“It was Republicans that expanded access to the polls. It was Republicans in the judiciary committee that did motor voter,” Biden said in arguing that the GOP has moved to the political fringe. “It’s Republicans that were involved. Guys like Mack Mathias and [Bob] Packwood and many others. It wasn’t Democrats alone.”

Biden’s remarks capped a rough week. On Wednesday, he called lenders of bad loans to people serving in the military “Shylocks,” a derogatory name for Jews, earning him a rebuke form the Anti-Defamation League. Also, this week, Biden referred to the First Prime Minister of Singapore as “the Wisest Man in the Orient,” an antiquated word deemed offensive by many Asians. And at an event in Iowa, Biden seemed to leave the door open for ground troops in Iraq to fight the militant group ISIS, a day after President Barack Obama specifically rejected such an option.

Of course, Biden has long history of gaffes, but as Vice President he’s generally reined in his verbosity.

But five in a week is a lot, even for him. Perhaps impending lame-duckdom is loosening his tongue.

TIME Iraq

France Becomes First Ally to Join U.S. Airstrikes in Iraq

FRANCE-DIPLOMACY-HOLLANDE
French President Francois Hollande holds a press conference with Madagascar president (unseen) at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris on September 19, 2014. Fred Dufour—AFP/Getty Images

France became the first foreign country to publicly join United States airstrikes in Iraq on Friday, bombing a logistics depot controlled by Islamist militants, Iraqi and French officials said. Rafale fighter jets accompanied by support planes “entirely destroyed” the depot controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in the north of the country, President Francois Hollande said. Iraq’s military spokesman said four morning airstrikes killed dozens of fighters…

Read the rest of the story at NBC News

TIME Congress

Rand Paul Calls Kerry ‘Intellectually Dishonest’ on Arming Syrian Rebels

"We will be sending arms into chaos”

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) blasted Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday as “intellectually dishonest” about the Obama Administration’s claim that it doesn’t need new congressional authority to arm Syrian rebels.

“You are intellectually dishonest if you argue that something passed in 2001 to [deal] with the people who attacked us in 9/11 has anything to do with sending arms into Syria,” Paul said during an afternoon speech on the Senate floor. “It’s intellectually dishonest and to say otherwise you are an intellectually dishonest person.”

Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday that the Administration would act under congressional authority passed in 2001 to fight al-Qaeda and its affiliates as it arms more moderate Syrian rebels for the battle against the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

“The rebels have been all over the map,” Paul said. “There’s said to be 1500 different groups. It is chaos over there. We will be sending arms into chaos.”

Paul said the Senate should vote on a separate measure to expand military action in Syria instead of including it in the short-term government funding bill that the House passed Wednesday.

The issue of whether or not to train and equip the Syrian rebels opposed to ISIS has divided potential 2016 presidential candidates. While Paul and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) oppose the measure, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) supports it.

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